UNCITRAL Model Laws on International Commercial Arbitration

By | September 13, 2019
UNCITRAL Model Laws on International Commercial Arbitration

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UNCITRAL Model Laws on International Commercial Arbitration

This article discusses UNCITRAL model laws on international commercial arbitration. The United Nations Commission on International Trade Law (UNCITRAL), established by the United Nations General Assembly in its 21st session by resolution 2205 (XXI) of 17 December 1966. Previously in the 20th session, the UNGA had considered initiatives to be taken for progressive development in the field of private international law with a particular view to promoting international trade.

The UNCITRAL considers itself to be a legal body focused on the modernization and harmonization of commerce especially those related to international trade. Its headquarter is in Vienna, Austria. UNCITRAL’s current director is Anne Joubin-Bret. The Members of the United Nations can become a member of the UNCITRAL as well.

Initially, it had members from 29 States. It was expanded by the United Nations General Assembly in 1973 to 36 States and again in 2002 to 60 States. The UNCITRAL website is available at 6 different languages. UNCITRAL’s work is divided into 3 layers, the first being the commission the second the inter-governmental layer and the third being the secretariat whose main work is to assist the members in the conduction of their work.

The first session of the organization was in the year 1968, with nine subject areas. The organization has been instrumental in the formulation of several model laws which are set of guidelines for the countries to be able to adopt for developing the standards of trade and commerce. Some of the model laws drafted by the UNCITRAL are the UNCITRAL Model Law on International Commercial Arbitration (1985), UNCITRAL Model Law on Electronic Commerce (1996), UNCITRAL Model Law on Public Procurement), etc.

The genesis of UNCITRAL model laws on international commercial arbitration

On June 21, 1985, after a three-week diplomatic conference attended by representatives and observers from 58 states and 18 international organizations, the United Nations Commission on International Trade Law (UNCITRAL) adopted a model law on international commercial arbitration.

It was adopted at its 18th session after deliberation and consultation with arbitral institutions and individual experts on international commercial arbitration. The model law was duly prepared for the Working Group on International Contract Practices, which was entrusted with the project in 1981.

Provisions of UNCITRL model laws on arbitration

The UNCITRAL model law is divided into two sections the first one being the theory of UNCITRAL model law on international commercial arbitration and the next being the explanatory note by the UNCITRAL secretariat on the model law on international commercial arbitration.

The first section is divided into VIII chapters, of the following:

1. General provisions

Which includes the scope and application which is restricted to international commercial arbitration. This chapter lists the various definitions and rules of interpretation and also enumerates the provisions for receipt of written communications. The provision of a waiver of the right to object is explained. The extent of court intervention and court and other authority for certain functions of arbitration and supervision can also be found listed in this chapter.

2. Arbitration agreement

 This chapter defines an arbitration agreement and explains the various features of the arbitration agreement which include the submission of all possible relationships that can arise in addition to solely contractual relationships. Article 8 refers to the claims before the court in relation to the arbitration agreement. Through article 9 the court has been given the power and the parties given the option of getting interim measures of protection from the court.

3. Composition of the arbitral tribunal

This includes the number of arbitrators and the procedure adopted for the appointment of arbitrators. An arbitrator is bound to disclose all the grounds for leading to the appointment. Apart from certain circumstances, the parties are free to agree on a procedure for challenging an arbitrator. Circumstances may arise when an arbitrator becomes unable to perform the function or withdraws from the process.

This chapter enumerates the implications when an arbitrator fails to perform an act. Subsequently, the provision for the appointment of a substitute arbitrator is also provided in this chapter.

4. Jurisdiction of an arbitral tribunal

This is one of the most debated over the chapter of the model laws. It explains the competence of arbitral tribunal to rule on its jurisdiction and gives the power to the arbitral tribunal to order interim measures.

5. jurisdiction of arbitral proceedings

Despite the fact that arbitration is an informal process, there are guidelines for the conduct of the arbitral tribunals in the proceedings. This includes equal treatment of parties. The procedure as to who shall determine the rules of procedure, the choice of the venue of the procedure, the date and time of the commencement of the procedure, etc. Language becomes a crucial aspect of the international arbitration procedure.

Therefore this chapter gives the freedom to the parties to decide upon the language of the proceeding. This chapter also provides the provisions with relation to the statement of claim and defense and hearings and written proceedings. Experts can be appointed by the arbitral tribunal under Article 26 of this chapter.

6. Making of award and termination of proceedings

The chapter provides for the rules applicable to the substance of the dispute, decision making by panel of arbitrators, Settlement, Form, and contents of an award, termination of proceedings, Correction, and interpretation of award and additional award.

7. Recourse against award

This chapter provides the ways to apply for setting aside as exclusive recourse against the arbitral awards and the requirements to be fulfilled for setting aside the award.

8. Recognition and enforcement of awards

As the name of the chapter suggest this chapter enumerates the grounds under which awards are considered as enforceable and also enshrines the grounds for refusal of recognition or enforcement of the award.

Importance of UNCITRAL model law on international commercial arbitration

UNCITRAL model in international commercial arbitration has been adopted in a number of countries and made municipal law. India, for example, has adopted the model laws and has formulated the  Arbitration and Conciliation Act, 1996 on its lines. Several of its provisions are in consonance to the guidelines of the UNCITRAL model law on international commercial arbitration.

The importance of the model law is increasing because of the wider acceptability of rules under this act by several nations and international organizations including the permanent court of arbitration.

The model law has been accepted as one of the most famous guidelines with respect to international and domestic arbitration. As the importance of arbitration as a method of resolution of disputes continues the importance of UNCITRAL model laws also keeps on increasing.


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  • Vijendra Singh says:

    a very productive course material for all professional as well as students

  • Navsirat kaur says:

    Very insightful and helpful content👍🏻